Freelance: Holiday Promotions

Gather round kids, story time. 2011, a few weeks before christmas there were stirrings in the office where I was freelancing at for a long term gig. IT became apparent when one by one all of our web projects were bottlenecking in Dev. Essentially the higher ups had no intention of going through with the projects our creative department was working on. They were just waiting to get their ducks in a row so they could lay off everyone in one swoop. This is the crystalized moment when everyone in the office knows what is about to happen but nobody is talking about it. (Du-Du-Duuuuu) Lay offs.

In a hail mary response to the inevitable I had to really start thinking about what it is to market yourself as a freelance designer in a tough market. On such short notice I had to come up with something fast with whatever materials I had available. I adore hand lettering and paint; so I made a cute illustration card to send out. 5 million things went wrong with it, nothing went as planned, and every step of the way seemed to be a sacrifice of quality since it was so last minute. I couldn’t even get decent paper as our local paper store closed it doors a month before. OBVSLY. When I was finished, I didn’t even want to send them out because they weren’t up to my personal standard, however I was pot committed. The man hours involved compounded with the normal stress of the holidays compounded with knowing your about to be laid off. No pressure. To just not send them would be complete defeat. I begrudgingly sent them anyway to creative recruiters and head hunters. Took a picture and emailed it too friends that worked at a couple of cool design agency’s downtown. It got passed around and emailed. And amazingly, it worked! I had an interview and job lined up within the week. I thought WOW! I mean maybe it wasn’t easy thing to do but results are hard to ignore.

Fast forward to 2012.


This year I wanted a repeat of the tactile handmade cards with the addition of an interactive element that really serves two purposes. For the people I send cards to it’s an immediate call to action go look at my site, check out my new portfolio work and most importantly lets chat right now. But the interactive element also serves as a e-card to people you weren’t able to send a card; people you just met, people you forgot or other prospects, and a holiday web presence to post around the social media circuit. (Note: Web traffic is dead right before and after Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years Eve. So plan accordingly for that window.)


2012 I was able to plan ahead. I got great paper from French Paper Co., bakers twine from Knot and Bow, lovely postage stamps that matched my theme, and great McCaffrey’s Penmans Ink (actually this was my back up. I had a gold Windsor ink I intended to use but the metallics kept sinking). For the design I had things in mind but nothing seemed right until I was down to the wire and had to get the calligraphy done that day. For the interactive piece I absolutely no idea what I was going to do for it, just that I wanted to. It really just happened organically the night before it launched and found a cute plug-in called Snow Storm that made it snow on my site.

In the end I was really happy with how it turned out this year and couldn’t wait to send them out even though I was actually working already at a few excellent freelance jobs. But you never know. People like to layoff during the holidays so why not plan on doing a holiday promotion every year? It can lay some serious ground work if it does happen to you and reconnecting with everyone in your personal network will never be a waste of your time.


  1. Wendy Oldfield
    January 14, 2013

    Fantastic post, Megan. What you said about just doing it and sending it off—despite its imperfections—is so spot on. I am a perfectionist by nature, and while rewarding in some aspects, it actually ends up being quite a curse, as a perfectionist never seems to quite find “perfection”. So I’d end up with a whole pile of incomplete, not-perfect projects. Sometimes you just have to send them off. One of my old college professors (who I actually ended up working with and writing two books with) gave me some advice that has always stuck with me, and it has seriously changed my career: “Not every design you create will be the best, most wonderful design ever. And, it’s OK for it to not be.” It might sound so simple, but his words to me were like keys that unlocked my perfectionistic bindings. And you know what? I started to FINISH projects. Sure, they weren’t perfect in my eyes, but at least they were done. And by finishing them, I found that my design aesthetic grew and developed more quickly. So kudos to you for sending those out, “perfect” or not ;)

    • Megs
      January 14, 2013

      Wise words Wendy. I’m the same way, I would push pixels around the screen all day if I could. I have so many side projects unfinished because of this idea of it being perfect.

      Not every design you create will be the best, most wonderful design ever. And, it’s OK for it to not be.

      I’m going to print out that pin it up in my office.

  2. Galen Farmer
    May 8, 2013

    You see, clients have no idea what freelancers do. If a client wants a web site built, he hires someone (or a team of someones) and all he knows, all he cares about, is that eventually when he loads up the Internet he can find his web site online and working just as he wanted. He doesn’t know how many hours it took to design the logo; he doesn’t care how many hours it took to write the PHP and CSS for the layout. He doesn’t care, really, if the site was tested across multiple browsers as long as it’s working on the browser he’s using.

  3. Dave Morales
    May 16, 2013

    The problem isn’t that you can’t do all or any of those things, and probably do them well enough – many arts professionals are extremely multi-skilled, but that you won’t stand out, and it doesn’t tell potential employers what they need to know. And what they really need to know is this: what are your key strengths? Where has the bulk of your experience been? How can you be of use to me? They want, and need, specifics.

  4. Silas Vega
    July 12, 2013

    When it comes to getting your first job, its really a matter of using your contacts, and that means telling everyone you know that you are available for hire. If you do not have many leads then you will also want to make sure they know that you’ll come cheap. It might be a good idea to send a mailer around to family and friends, or you might prefer to talk to people in person, whatever the case remember, no-one will hire you if no-one knows about you.


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